Leaders to Legends features David Carey, EVP, T-Mobile, on what it takes to be the “un-carrier”

Post by Eric Nobis, managing director of Marketing and Communications and executive director of the Center for Sales and Marketing Strategy at the Foster School

David Carey, Executive Vice President of Corporate Services at T-Mobile
This was not going to be your father’s breakfast event. Tip-offs included diffuse magenta lighting, a custom Ducati you may have seen in TV spots, and a cardboard cut-out of Carly Foulkes, the daring cognoscente equipped with T-Mobile gadgetry. Also: music and eight foot boards illustrating the nine steps to being an un-carrier. Then David Carey, T-Mobile’s executive vice president of Corporate Services, takes the floor and asks if the audience is ready to “take the ride.” Met with nods, he repeats the question, emphasizing that, “silence is not assent.”

We were all in for the ride, which, it turned out, was an exciting and fast paced tour through the three-year turnaround in progress over at T-Mobile. From October 2012 to 2015, the litany of issues that needed immediate attention was astounding. Losing 2.2 million customers, no iPhone, failed merger with AT&T, shareholders not aligned with leadership, disruptive global economic conditions, and market share down 10% were just a few of the problems. There was really no way to win at this game, so when leadership changed hands three years ago, the plan was not to change the game so much as abandon the game altogether. This is where the “un-carrier” concept was born, explained Carey.

The new mission: be the customer advocate. This was a strategic role that wasn’t being met in the market place. It’s common knowledge that the industry is rife with new customer incentives, but what about meaningful rewards for customer loyalty? Re-tooling the company to be truly customer-centric meant making a large investment in listening to the front line customer-facing staff. So this is what the T-Mobile leadership team decided to do. And it started with the notion that people need to feel like they can make a difference.

“Listen actively…and ACT. Hierarchy is the enemy of front-line communications. Your customer service people are optimal problem solvers, if you listen and respond operationally.” – David Carey, Executive Vice President of Corporate Services at T-Mobile

Key Leadership Takeaways

  • Conviction
  • Purpose
  • Listen actively
  • Earn followers
  • Act


Watch the full lecture.

David Carey was one of UW Foster School of Business Dean Jim Jiambalvo’s guest speakers at the monthly Leaders to Legends Breakfast Lecture Series, which include notable leaders in an array of industries from greater Seattle and around the country.